When it comes to our money, social media is probably better known for getting us to spend it than to save or invest it.
After all, as we scroll through other people’s highlights reels, it can be hard not to be drawn into impulse buying and overspending. According to a poll commissioned by BBC Radio 5 Live and HuffPost UK, just over a third of millennials say that social media posts by influencers have made them spend money they otherwise would not have wanted to spend, whilst two in five (39%) said the same thing about targeted adverts.
“I think we’ve all been there, especially with Instagram,” says Kerry, “A friend shares the perfect shot of a white sandy beach, and oops, we find ourselves clicking through to British Airways. Another shares a story about a new cafe, so we book ourselves in the next night. Then you get the ads and they’re so weirdly specific like organic yoghurts or Scottish cashmere or the Calm app. You know, these algorithms are there to make us spend money.”
But for Kerry, a 30-year-old accountant from Bournemouth, social media has also been her gateway into investing. “I always figured I was good with money because of my job and because I have good saving habits and stuff. But I never really considered investing. Only I started reading magazines like Girl Boss and following accounts like @thisgirltalksmoney and the @moneymedics. It’s been a learning curve but I’ve now got things like an ISA, which I never had before.”
Kerry is far from the only woman who credits social media with transforming her relationship with money.
Clare Seal — best known for her Instagram account @myfrugalyear, which has more than 65,000 followers — has said that 97% of her followers are women and receives messages every day about how her journey has inspired them to change their financial habits.
“It’s what fuels me to carry on,” Clare tells me, “There are a number of women who have found the courage to speak to their bank and have had interest rates reduced, or told their partner about their money worries. Now that I’ve been running the account for quite a while, I’m seeing people celebrate paying off their debt or meeting other financial goals, which is amazing.”
It seems that thanks to a burgeoning community of female influencers focused on money, women are flocking to accounts where they can learn more about their finances. From frugal living to property portfolios and alternative investments, there are women sharing stories about debt and spending spirals, the gender pay and wealth gaps, financial education and confidence.
They’re breaking the taboo around money. And they’re doing it through Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter.
Talking about money is complicated. One study showed that despite 61% of people feeling better when they speak about money with each other, over half of British people still feel that money is a taboo topic.
For women it becomes even more nuanced. As Charlotte Lorimer, founder of the Bang on the Money podcast, says, “It’s not that long ago that women had no choice but to be financially dependend on men, it wasn’t until 1975 that women could open a bank account in their own name. And there’s a definite hangover from the past that affects women when it comes to how much confidence they have in managing their money.”
However, Charlotte also notes that social media is one of the ways she — like many others — has challenged her relationship with money.
“Money is a taboo topic — one of many that interests me — and woman are really leading the conversation on that, just as they are with other taboo topics, such as period poverty or miscarriage,” she says. “Everyday money hasn’t filtered into mainstream influencer or celebrity feeds yet, but many of the money influencers are genuinely pushing the boundaries. What I’d like to see next is more women taking positive, practical steps when managing their finances — talking is one thing, we also need to take action.”
Clare Seal adds, “I think that for a long time, women have felt like finance is a male-dominated space and might have been worried about being patronised or shouted down when asking questions or voicing opinions about money in other forums. Instagram is a very female platform, so I think it’s quite natural that women feel more comfortable talking about money in a different way there. It’s also a great place to convey some aspects of finance that have a reputation for being complex — like investing — in a simpler and more accessible way.”
There’s a lot to be said for the value of representation.
Traditionally, financial advice and wealth management have been male-dominated spheres, with estimates suggesting that male advisors outnumber female advisors by a ratio anywhere between 10:1 to 6:1.
Add in that just 12% of young women say they would ask for help from a financial advisor compared to 21% of men, despite 47% admitting their mental wellbeing has been impacted by their money. Whilst part of this is due to the fact that many women don’t think they’re wealthy enough to speak to an advisor (around 37%), it’s also because of the dearth of women in advisory roles.
As Davinia Tomlinson, CEO and founder of RainChq, told Glamour, “The very alpha male nature of the financial advice industry is a big driver behind women being reluctant to seek advice. Money is such a personal subject […] but given some of the unique financial challenges women face, it can be a huge game changer speaking to someone who can empathise from a personal perspective.”
It is a familiar sentiment. When I spoke to Angelica Malin, founder of About Time, about how the pandemic had changed her saving and investing habits, one of the main points she raised was on how traditional financial language can be off-putting for women. “Personally, I found that there weren’t people who looked and spoke like me who could demystify money,” she said, noting how it was books by women like Catherine Morgan and Emilie Bellet that helped her start investing.
The fact is that social media is creating a safe place for women who want to learn more about money from people like themselves. Platforms like Instagram are opening up the conversation, encouraging women not just to have more confidence with money but to start doing more with it too through saving and investing.
So how to find accounts that work for you?
For people like Kerry who sees the people she follows as ‘like friends’, or the women following accounts like @myfrugalyear, the access to insight and discussion can be a game-changer.
But finding accounts that give you the kind of insights you want may mean spending some time trawling through the different accounts and hashtags.
“I think the best thing to do is to just have a browse and see who speaks to you,” says Clare, “Accounts like @vestpod and @thisgirltalksmoney are brilliant for people who are in a more secure position looking to push forward and grow their money, while @frugal_me_free is about paying off debt. My own account is more about financial wellbeing with a combination of practical and emotional content. It’s important to find someone who is aligned with your views and goals.”
Charlotte agrees, “When you have tools to put you in control of your savings or investments, it gives you such peace of mind. It’s not easy to build up a financial safety net, but that’s where the sense of community on social media can be so helpful — it can remind you that you’re not the only one finding it hard. You may have to look through lots of accounts or communities to find one that relates to your situation but when you find one, the time spent searching is so worth it.”
It’s also important to be conscious — if not cautious — of what advice is shared on social media.
In the banking and finance world, there are a lot of hurdles before advice can be given. There are regulations and rules that advisors and advertisers need to follow when putting out any kind of social post. These rules are there to stop misleading or poor advice from being shared.
“Sometimes I see posts that masquerade as financial advice, which can be problematic,” says Charlotte. “It’s twofold in terms of making posts clear and fair: People creating the posts need to be upfront about the level of their training or clarify that they’re coming from personal experience. And people reading the posts need to be discerning, especially when it comes to investing. Anyone who talks about specific stocks and shares or strategies should be treated with caution.”
The fact is that most social media influencers are not financial advisors. Some have trained as financial education instructors like Bola Sokunbi (@clevergirlfinance) and others will have strong backgrounds in finance and investment like Alice Tapper (@gofundyourself) or Emilie Bellet (@vestpod).
Not being an advisor isn’t necessarily an issue.
It doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the conversations and communities that have built up on Instagram or Facebook.
Yet, being conscious of what you’re learning and whether it’s safe remains key. But social media remains an ideal place for discovering more about money, growing your knowledge, and exploring your options for saving and investing.
As Clare says, “I think that now, especially during this pandemic and recession, a good rule of thumb is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
She also notes that sometimes the best person you can speak to is an advisor or banker.
“Any good money coach will have the right accreditation and insurance and will be happy to do a free consultation first. If you need real financial advice, go to an IFA, not just someone with lots of Instagram followers.”
Authors: Harriet Allner and ikigai
Harriet Allner is a writer, blogger and fintech specialist. She cares about stories that matter and is passionate about promoting conversation around money positivity and financial feminism.
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